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Help with childcare costs

The government has introduced ways to help parents with childcare costs. 

Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support. See the different types of support available below.

Childcare Choices - Help with childcare costs

Parents and carers

Childcare Choices provides information on:

  • 15 hours free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds
  • 30 hours free chilcare for 3 and 4 year olds
  • Tax Free Childcare
  • Tax Credits for Childcare (Tax credits are closed to new applications for the majority of people from 1 February 2019)
  • Universal Credit for Childcare
  • Support while you study

Look at the Childcare Choices website for all the help on offer 

Local offer

The Local Offer serves those with individual needs, who require help and support between the ages of 0 to 25.

If you are struggling to find a childcare provider Rochdale Family Information Service can give you details about childcare in your local area.  You can also ask them about other specialist services your child may need because of their disability.

Help with childcare costs

Childcare providers

The government launched two schemes in September 2017 to further help with the cost of childcare. These are Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare.

Find out how the schemes affect you as a childcare provider on the Childcare Choices website 

Find funding streams available to providers to support inclusion and disability

Useful links

Find a childcare provider.

Free childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year old's

Rochdale Borough Council provides free early education places up to 15 hours per week for eligible 2 year olds from the term after their second birthday and all 3 and 4 year olds, from the term after their third birthday.

Eligible 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.

Further information

For further information see the childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds page

30 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year old's

In September 2017, the government introduced a 30 hour free childcare entitlement for parents of children who meet certain criteria.

Further information

For further information see the 30 Hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds page

Tax Free Childcare

If you get Tax-Free Childcare, the government will pay £2 for every £8 you pay your childcare provider. This is paid via an online childcare account you set up for your child.

You can get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as 30 hours free childcare if you’re eligible for both.

You can use tax-free childcare for

You can use it to pay for approved childcare, for example:

  • Childminders, nurseries and nannies
  • After school clubs and play schemes
  • Home care agencies

Your childcare provider must be signed up to the scheme before you can pay them and benefit from Tax-Free Childcare.

Check with your provider to see if they’re signed up.


Your eligibility depends on:

  • If you are working
  • How much you earn
  • Your child’s age and circumstances
  • Your nationality

Your partner’s employment and income will affect your eligibility if you are:

  • Married or in a civil partnership and live together
  • Not married or in a civil partnership, but living together as though you are

It will not affect your eligibility if they:

  • Are or will be absent from your household for more than 6 months
  • Are a prisoner

If you get tax credits, universal credit or childcare vouchers

You cannot get Tax-Free Childcare at the same time as claiming Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers. Which scheme you’re better off with depends on your situation.

To use the childcare calculator to work out which type of support is best for you see the website 

For further information on Tax-Free Childcare see the website 

How to apply

Apply for Tax Free Childcare on the website 

Useful links

Childcare providers: sign up and receive payments from Tax-Free Childcare on the website 

Tax-Free Childcare: 10 things parents should know 

Child Tax Credits

Child tax credit has been replaced by universal credit for most people

You can only make a new claim for Child Tax Credit if you get the severe disability premium or got it in the past month and are still eligible for it.

If your child is 16, you can claim up until 31 August after their 16th birthday. If they are in approved education or training, you can claim until their 20th birthday.

If you cannot make a new claim for Child Tax Credit, you may be able to apply for:


Helpline: 0345 300 3900

Textphone: 0345 300 3909

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland.

You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work.

Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your circumstances.

If you already get benefits

Universal Credit will replace the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit

If you currently receive any of these benefits, you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time.

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across the UK. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about moving to Universal Credit, unless you have a change in circumstances.


You may be able to get Universal Credit if:

  • You’re on a low income or out of work
  • You’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
  • You’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
  • You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
  • You live in the UK

For more information see the website 

Help with childcare costs for student parents

Discretionary learner support

The money can help pay for things like:

  • Accommodation and travel
  • Course materials and equipment
  • Childcare - if you qualify

To get Discretionary Learner Support (DLS) you must be:

  • 19 or over, studying at a learning provider funded by the Skills Funding Agency (check with your college)
  • You must be 20 or over to get help with childcare costs. If you’re 19, apply for Care to Learn instead.

You can apply even if you get other types of funding such as:

  • Professional and Career Development Loans
  • Care to Learn
  • New Deal for Lone Parents
  • Disability Living Allowance

Who can’t apply:

You can’t claim if you’re:

  • Getting student finance for higher education
  • On a learn direct course
  • On a New Deal programme (except New Deal for Lone Parents)
  • On an apprenticeship training scheme
  • On a work-based learning course
  • On an Adult and Community Learning course

How to apply:

Apply directly through your training provider (for example, your college)

Childcare grant

You may be eligible for help with your learning costs if you:

  • Are a full-time higher education student
  • Have children under 15, or under 17 if they have special educational needs

The grant:

  • Doesn’t have to be paid back
  • Is paid on top of your other student finance

How to apply:

To find out if you are eligible for student finance see the website

Apply online at 

You can also contact Student Finance England on 0845 300 5090 to apply.

Parents' learning allowance

You may be eligible for help with your learning costs if you’re a full-time student with children. This is called Parents’ Learning Allowance.

How much you get depends on your household income.
The allowance:

  • Doesn’t have to be paid back
  • Is paid on top of your other student finance
  • Won’t affect your benefits or tax credit


If you’re a student from England with dependent children you may qualify if you’re taking:

  • A full-time undergraduate course
  • An Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course

You don’t need to be paying for childcare to qualify.

How to apply:

To apply for the Parents' Learning Allowance see the website 

Care to learn

If you’re studying and aged under 20 at the start of your course, Care to Learn can help pay for your childcare costs while you’re learning.

Care to Learn can help with the cost of:

  • Childcare, including deposit and registration fees
  • A childcare ‘taster’ session (up to 5 days)
  • Keeping your childcare place over the summer holidays
  • Taking your child to the childcare provider

The childcare provider can be:

  • Childminder
  • Pre-school playgroup
  • Day nursery
  • Out of school club
  • All providers need to be registered with Ofsted.

You can get Care to Learn if:

  • You’re a parent under 20 at the start of your course
  • You’re the main carer for your child
  • You live in England
  • You’re either a British citizen or a national of a European Economic Area (EEA) country   
  • Your course qualifies
  • Your childcare provider qualifies

Your course:

Care to Learn is only available for courses in England that have some public funding. This includes courses that take place in:

  • Schools
  • School 6th forms
  • 6th form colleges
  • Other colleges and learning providers, including Foundation Learning
  • Your community at Children’s Centres

Your childcare:

To qualify, your childcare provider must be registered with Ofsted. If the child needs specialist childcare, the provider must also be on the Care Quality Commission’s register for specialist provision.

If you want a relative to get Care to Learn for looking after your child they also need to be both:

  • Providing registered childcare for children they’re not related to
  • Living apart from you and your child

Who can’t get Care to Learn:

You’re not eligible for Care to Learn if:

  • You’re an apprentice who gets a salary
  • You’re doing a higher education course at university

How to apply

Apply through the Learner Support Fund on 0800 121 8989

Main student finance

The Main Student Finance Package:

  • Tuition Fee Loan
  • Maintenance Loan - full-time students only
  • Maintenance Grant - full-time students only

Tuition Fee Loans pay for your course. Maintenance Loans and Grants help with living costs (For example accommodation, books, bills). You have to pay back loans but not grants.

You might get extra help on top of this.

You apply for student finance every year. You don’t need a confirmed place at university or college to apply.

How to apply:

Apply or support an application on the website 

Other help

Medical, social work and teacher training students

You can apply for:

NHS bursaries - medical, dentistry or healthcare students 

Social Work Bursaries - social work students 

Extra help for teacher training students 

Disabled students

If you have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty, you can apply for:

Special support grant

You must be a full-time student. Part-time and EU students can’t apply.

You may get a Special Support Grant instead of a Maintenance Grant if you get or qualify for Income Support or Housing Benefit. The amount you get is the same as the Maintenance Grant, but it won’t reduce the Maintenance Loan you can get.

You may get the Special Support Grant if, for example, you’re a lone parent or have certain disabilities.

How to apply:

Apply online on the website 

Useful information


Student Finance England - 0845 300 5090.

Information for parents

Last Updated: 12/01/2023
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